Britpop survivors Salad on reunions, rivalries and the Star Shaped Festival

The band are on a tour with My Life Story, Dodgy, Space, The Bluetones and Sleeper

Though fronted by a Dutch person – former MTV presenter Marijne Van Der Vlugt – Salad were one of the quirkiest bands in the Britpop scene, winning fans with their almost-hit ‘Motorbike To Heaven’ (Number 42 in 1995) and debut album ‘Drink Me’ (Number 16 the same year). They split a year after releasing the follow-up, 1997’s ‘Ice Cream’, but Marijne and guitarist Paul Kennedy since reunited as both a two-piece acoustic act, Salad Undressed (see what they did there), and the full line-up of the original, plugged-in band.

They, and numerous non-Blur/Pulp/Oasis names from the Britpop scene, have regrouped this summer for a travelling one-day event, Star Shaped Festival, which visits London’s Forum tomorrow (August 5), O2 ABC Glasgow (August 12) and O2 Ritz Manchester (August 19). The event sees Salad perform alongside romantic pop types My Life Story, summer funsters Dodgy, cosmic ragamuffins Space, indie icons The Bluetones and the newly reunited Sleeper. We caught up with Salad’s Marijne and Paul to talk about the shows, their comeback and the Britpop legacy.

Why did you decide that now’s the right time to get the band back together?

Marijne: “It was a bit of an accident that we started up [acoustic project] Salad Undressed mid 2016, but then when the offer of reforming the whole band for [indie event] Indie Daze came along, we had to strike the iron while it was hot… We watched bands reform while it looked out of reach for us to ever get back together. So we when we were faced with the possibility, it was a complete no brainer.”

Paul: “We never thought this would happen – we were, as Phil Collins sang, living separate lives. But I’d started doing solo gigs again, and Marijne came along to one and really liked it. After the gig we went into a quiet corner and tried out a couple of Salad songs. That planted the seed that had laid dormant for 18 years. It was a good seed. Since then, we’ve been performing as a two-piece under the banner of Salad Undressed, and re-loving it. Then, with our heads above the water and in plain view, we got offered a Salad gig at Indie Daze. We got in touch with the other Salads and they were well up for it. That was a pleasant surprise.”

Star Shaped gathers loads of bands from the Britpop era. Did you have much contact with them at the time? Is it like a school reunion?

Marijne: “To be honest we didn’t really have much contact at the time – there were certain invisible barriers, so it’s a beautiful thing to meet up with everyone properly, instead of side swiping past people in clubs… It’s an era reunion, and we’ve all got life stories to tell.”

Paul: “It’s a bit like a school reunion, although I’ve never been to one of those. We all used to bump into each other across the circuit, and of course we sometimes shared gigs. It was a definite scene, if not quite the Surrealists in Paris in the 1930s.”

Have any old rivalries resurfaced?

Marijne: “Nope of course not. We all know what side our bread is buttered on. The rumoured rivalry back then is sadly true. So it is particularly sweet to all get on now. Tres civilized…”

Paul: “Back in the day there were rivalries – we were all youngish, dumb-ish and full of other issues. But that’s all gone now and everyone seems nice and pleasant. Now it’s a life of jamming Status Quo songs in each other’s dressing rooms.”

Which of your tracks gets the best reception live?

Marijne: “‘Drink the Elixir’ does well, especially with Paul getting a great distortion sound out of his semi-acoustic Spanish guitar… although our new single ‘Being Human’ is going down quite well. It’s a poignant, reflective song that at the same time drives along like a freight train in the dead of a hot summer’s night.”

Paul: “’Drink the Elixir’ is our best known song. It still gets a lot of radio play. We end the set with it – it’s got a big crescendo and climax – a nod of the head to ‘A Day in the Life’, and it goes down a treat.”

The Britpop years were short lived but brilliant. How do you feel about it now? What’s its legacy?

Marijne: “They were fast and furious indeed. A more level head on my shoulders would have been nice. They were also quite insecure times. Its legacy? I would like to go as far as to say that without Britpop bringing alternative / indie music to the fore, there’d be no BBC6 Music now. That’s a great legacy.”

Paul: “We never thought of ourselves as Britpop – we didn’t write about those sort of themes, but we were happy to be around at a vibrant time for music and to be part of it. I don’t know if there’s any legacy, chart-wise, but there’s lots of stuff on Radio 6 which seems to be flying the flag. Top of the Pops needs to come back to bring everything into focus.”

What are your plans for new music? Is there an album on the way?

Marijne: “Yes there is… we’re currently recording our Salad Undressed album, ‘Good Love Bad Love’, hopefully out at the end of the year. And for Salad (the full line up), new songs are literally coming out of Paul’s ears for a new album in 2018.”

Paul: “I’ve been writing like a madman over the last few years. The song ‘Being Human’ is out now as a free download through PledgeMusic. Marijne and I wrote it a few weeks ago the morning after the night before at a groovy party, man. I’ve also started writing songs for the next Salad album, which we want to get on with next year. They’re pretty diverse – ‘60s US garage punk, Chic-like funk, Monkees meet Pixies. A bit confusing, but that’s the way we like it.”

Salad's Marijne Van Der Vlugt by Tim Topple

Salad’s Marijne Van Der Vlugt by Tim Topple

You also have a PledgeMusic page that has long-lost Salad tracks available. Any hidden gems? How come they weren’t released?

Marijne: “’The Lost Album’, is just that… We demoed throughout making [second album] ‘Ice Cream’ and then afterwards for the next album, but we got dropped. So we carried on for one more year demoing and trying to get another deal, but to no avail, the moment had passed. We accepted defeat at the end of 1998, and went home licking our wounds… it was quite a sad time. But the ‘Lost’ songs, we feel, have stood the test of time, we’re delighted they are going to see the light of day after all this time. Unimaginable a few years ago. Hidden Gems? I choose ‘Lift’. We played this at our last two shows in 1998. The recording is quite lo-fi yet it elevates you.”

Paul: “There’s loads of hidden gems. We’ve whittled down over 30 songs to a 14-song album. Some of our best songs are on ‘The Lost Album’, which is coming out later this year. They should have been released in ‘97/’98, but they weren’t. Who can say why? However, these days we’re in charge of the means of production. We’ve taken over the zoo, and these animals who’ve been champing at the bit are set to be released. We couldn’t be more happy for them. Hello ‘Big Monkey Girl’, ‘Lift’, ‘Wave’ and ‘Poor Peach’!”

Any regrets about splitting Salad back in ’98?

Marijne: “Yes and no. It was tough to get dropped, but things just weren’t fitting together anymore. I’ve had bitter phases and sheer relief phases. Personally, I needed to get real. I got the job. I got the husband. I got the kid. But honestly? I knew there was always something missing, and getting back into performing and song writing and recording is like the most natural thing to me.“

Paul: “Regrets are pointless. We needed a break. Perhaps it shouldn’t have lasted 19 years, but now we’re back, and we’re not splitting again. This is a lifetime thing. We’re joined at the hips.”

At the time, a lot of fuss was made about Salad, Sleeper, Echobelly and more having female singers. Are you pleased times have changed and bands such as Wolf Alice aren’t treated as quite such a novelty?

Marijne: “Yes, thankfully bands are just bands now, not gender-related. It did serve a purpose for us though at the time – it doesn’t hurt to get pigeon-holed up to a point, but it can be limiting. I’m glad to be able to state now that we’ve always been more indie-prog than indie-pop, whether I am a girl or not. Phew – what a relief.”

Paul: “We didn’t think about it much at the time. We were a band of equals and we had a bloody good time.”